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  • November 15, 2010
  • Gabe Ets-Hokin
  • Bob Stokstad
  • 55 Comments

Sunday Morning Ride of a Lifetime: We Ride the NCR Leggera. With Video.

Like a lot of you, I have a regular Sunday ride. It leaves from Tam Junction, just a few miles north of San Francisco and winds along the coastal cliffs to the amazing West Marin section of California Highway 1. This last Sunday’s ride was, to use an Internet colloquial, epic by any measure. Not because the weather was unseasonably warm, or that the route was fuzz-free, or that the sunshine brought out friends I hadn’t seen for years, or that the last 15 miles to breakfast in Point Reyes Station was a fast, fun freight train that made me feel like an irresponsible 25-year-old once more.

What pushed it over the top was emerging from the Station House cafe after my customary bacon and fried-oyster omelet and seeing Terry Otton standing across the street next to his amazing $140,000 NCR Legera. I was almost hit by a passing rental car as I bolted across the road to check it out.

I had never met Terry, nor had I mentioned his name when I wrote about the bike to respect his privacy. Turns out Terry enjoyed the MD story and had no problem with his cover being blown. Otton, an investment-firm CEO, is clearly a guy who knows how to enjoy his money and doesn’t care who knows it. He also seems to enjoy the attention the bike generates any time he stops near a group of gearheads, sounding like a tour guide as he points out the delicious hand-made Italian goodness his ride is festooned with.

So when the conversation reached a lull and Otton said, “you can even ride it if you want,” I only needed a little talking-into for the sake of appearances. I instructed a friend to strangle me to death if I crashed and survived, handed Terry the keys to my embarrassingly shabby little bike, and  took off down the road.

I was expecting a hard-to-control, fire-breathing beast and got a pleasant surprise. Sure, there’s over 100 foot-pounds of torque on tap and the bike weighs much less than a race-prepped 250 Ninja. But I found it to be almost docile at rational road and engine speeds, not that different from the Ducati Hypermotard it’s loosely based on.

Of course, that’s until you crack the throttle. The front end gets light in about any gear and the bike leaps forward like a scalded cat. Steering response is feather-light, the carbon brakes are fiendishly powerful (but still easily controllable) and the bike never feels skittish or odd the way a supermoto would. Overall, the impression the bike gave me after my 5-mile test loop was that of a factory-prepped racebike—not surprising, given NCR has been building Ducati racers since Mike “The Bike” Hailwood made his famous comeback at the 1978 Isle of Man TT. It was also comfortable, easy to ride and wasn’t so loud as to be uncomfortable or embarrassing. It’s docile and mellow (although the fueling was sort of bad at slow speeds under steady throttle)  until you wick it up past 7000 rpm, when it does turn into a fire-breathing beast. That’s about perfect for me.

Terry does report the bike is lacking in range, with a small tank and extreme, sub-30-mpg thirst for unleaded premium. But judging from the skinny chicken strips on the rear tire, Terry has a good time with his motorcycle—money well spent.

Editor’s Note:  Gabe shot this hand-held with his iPhone 4.  We apologize to those prone to dizziness. 

55 Comments

  1. bmw4vww says:

    Gabe, I have been reading about your moto exploits without comment for the last few years, but this is with out a doubt the most impressive impromptu get of a test ride that I have ever seen.
    bmw4vww

  2. smp32 says:

    Apparently, some forgot the lesson they were supposed to learn as kids: If you don’t have anything nice to say…

    Thank you for sharing, Mr. Otton.

  3. Timothy Beal says:

    I highly appreciate the single disk. To me this aspect makes this $140K dream machine “real world.”

  4. Jim says:

    120ft lb torque, 295lbs wet? Yowza. What off the line production bike even comes close?

  5. MGNorge says:

    Every time you put the kickstand down you’d scrape off $50!

    Mere mortals can’t comprehend such an extravagance. It wold be a blast to ride, just to see and say you did, but unless you have extra large bank, the liability of crashing it or having it stolen would loom in your mind. Not for the faint!

  6. Kjazz says:

    If I owned it, I’d be constantly worried that I would drop it. I prolly wouldn’t go any faster than I already do….I dunno. I just think building a Taj Mahal motorcycle is senseless. Sorta like gourmet pizza, it’s just inherently conflicted. I personally think motorcycles are for fun and ought to be accessible to anybody for a reasonable price. Sure, it’s beautiful but for $140,000 crap it ought to be!!!! C’mon, that’s no engineering marvel!!! With not cost constraints, any decently talented shop could replicate or better it. Produce the same package in weight and power for say….. $25,000 – $30,000, now that would be an engineering marvel! Superior results with high cost constraints is a much more interesting achievement.

    • Austin zzr 1200 says:

      +1
      The difference here is the NCR brand which, apparently, commands a price premium. The question is: do tuner bikes hold their value as collectibles? If so, the price premium might be justified. If not, its just a .who’s got more’ contest.

  7. mugwump says:

    Wow, just wow.

  8. MikeD says:

    Haaa, the guy wasn’t a SNOB at all! but really down to earth…(^_^ )
    Anyways, COOL PIECE OF MACHINERY…not my thing tho…but i can sure appreciate all the fine parts, $$$$$$ and labor gone into making it.

    $140K? That’s a decent house for me!

    • MikeD says:

      Then again, who ever spent $140K on a bike im pretty sure (and hope for its own sake) that he/she is living on a $1 milion Home.

    • Kjazz says:

      That dude was extraordinarily gracious to allow someone to sit on it much less to ride it!!! Very cool individual indeed.

  9. John says:

    What a waste of money. it’ll be worth $10K in ten years…LOL

    • Daytona675Jay says:

      Unfortunately, all you guys are placing your own value systems on this guy and his bike. Imagine if you had his money. Try saying ‘what if’ a few times. Chances are your bike would be different from his hut he’s a flat track guy… so what. If you had the dough-ray-mee, you’d all have something as unique and unobtainium as this guy… guarenteed. We’re motorcyclists… that’s what we do.

      • John says:

        I still disagree. I would never put that kind of dough in an air cooled lump. Now maybe if it was a desmo to start with, then you would be right.

        If you have that kind of money, why not take an 1198R and turn it into your own Hypermoto?

        I guess it all has to do with what you like.

      • Kjazz says:

        No. I can assure you without reservation that I would not spend that much to scratch my moto itch. I could spend close to that and wont. But you are right, to each his own! If he’s happy, I’m happy for him!

        Desmo motors are so freakin cool, they spin so easily without valve springs. Springs gotta suck down a lot HP just doing their job. So Desmo is very smart. But, I wish they weren’t 90 degree engines. They just look like they belong on top of an air compressor. Ugly IMHO.

  10. jimbo says:

    One of the best MD articles and certainly the best MD video I know of.

    Gabe, FYI from a sound tech: Only a very narrow use professional microphone made for highest dB application can capture sound sources like that NCR. The proof of that is that everyone who viewed the video I’m sure noticed that when the bike was revved, all they heard is slight high frequency clicking rather than the low bass and mid bass that I’m sure rattled your gut. The entire recording system in your hands (your phone) just shut down with limiting technology that kept it from imploding internally.

    Beyond that, even if you captured the sound properly with multiple thousands of dollars of pro gear, YouTube severely limits and squashes dynamics and frequency bandwidth. Beyond even THAT, no home computer playback system (even headphones), could reproduce it.

    It’s one of those “you have to be there” sound experiences, like a Saturn rocket, etc.

    Still A+ overall, even A for effort on the sound!

    How hot WAS it last Sunday in Marin? (pretty hot here in north Utah, maybe high 40s)

    • Gabe says:

      Thanks Jimbo. My head was right next to that muffler when he revved the bike and I can attest to the unique nature of the sound. I knew the video wouldn’t really capture it, but you gotta try, right?

      It was almost 80 degrees here last Sunday, and just as hot yesterday, too.

    • Tim says:

      Just to be clear, my post below was not intended as sarcasm. I’m no sound tech but I am fairly aware of the audio recording limitations of the average cell phone, (sadly, my vid clips from the Desmosedici unveiling in Seattle pretty much erased any doubt I might have had), so I wasn’t bagging on the sound quality. I just get really jazzed by the sound of a high performance engine. I thought the entire video was awesome even though I was thinking the whole time, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Titanium this, carbon fiber that. Now start the thing already!” I WILL figure out how to get my ring tone. Thanks, Gabe, for taking the time to film and post this.

  11. Tim says:

    Wow! I was kind of on the fence about the bike at first. A $140,000 price tag’ll do that a guy. But the shove came in the final seconds of the video, when he started the beast. I want a cleaner recording of that to use as my new ring tone.

  12. Vrooom says:

    Clearly god must have had a hand in the design of that bike. I’ll never afford anything like that, and in the NW it wouldn’t be terribly usable anyway, but it’s gorgeous.

  13. mofoninja says:

    There’s a touch of haterade in this thread. Don’t hate, appreciate! I’m slowly building mine. I even have a single gen-yoo-wine NCR CORSE part on my bike in the form of a Rear Sprocket Flange.

    That’s right… baller!

    /sarcasm ;)

  14. ducdug says:

    Sheer moto-mechanical porn! I am completely overdosed on titanium and carbon fiber.

    Thanks Gabe for showing us this beauty, and thanks Terry for spending the money for such a beautiful bike that you actually ride. How many D16RR owners have let the tires actually roll on asphalt?

    I’d be happy to do a long-term test of its funtionality as a day-to-day commuter, no charge!

  15. Gabe says:

    Sorry about the shaking, guys! But I had just finished riding that bike! Can you blame me for having shaky hands?

  16. Trpldog says:

    It would be my luck, my wife would back over it with the car the first day I had it.

  17. Austin zzr 1200 says:

    I’ll take a 911 turbo and a 1198s instead of that thing

  18. Dennis says:

    Wow! A true object of moto lust and a fine example of function over form. The Anti Harley for sure! Well, so is an MV Agusta, but look what HD did with them.
    With the exception of the swing-arm, everything here is made to be as light and functional as possible. While a conventional swing-arm in titanium would probably be lighter and stronger, it wouldn’t be nearly as beautiful.
    For those that feel it lacks in looks due to the minimalist nature of the bike, you may be correct.
    But sometimes less is more, much more. Minimalism can be beautiful too.
    An example of excess, even gluttony? Perhaps.
    Are we all a bit jealous? Definitely!
    Then again, it’s nice to see something like this bike exist and actually be ridden instead of on display.
    If I won the lottery I’d have two.
    Thanks for sharing this with us.

  19. Chip says:

    The lack of frame sliders says something. I’m not sure what…

  20. Justin says:

    What do you think the components cost? I bet you could build a bike almost this light for under $30k. Maybe $40-50 if you can’t fabricate any yourself.

    The difference between my hypothetical bike and his is the balance (both physical and visual), responsiveness, and maybe a little bit of the exclusivity of name recognition that comes from having NCR build the machine. I’m sure Mr. Otton thinks it was worth every penny, and after reading this I can’t disagree.

    • Gabe says:

      Did you know the NCR people flew to Marin to build the bike at the dealership, Hattar Moto? And thought the materials and components may not add up to $140k, the decades of experience with this kind of bike can’t be replicated by a home mechanic for any amount of time and money, although I’m sure you can do amazing things…it just won’t be like this.

      Build video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZw2J9zzymM

    • jimbo says:

      People lacking manufacturing experience have no idea the costs involved. Some naive and very innocent (had no bad intent) posted he thought he could make the item I designed and produce for about half the cost, not even remotely possible.

      • Brian says:

        I think a lot of people don’t quite grasp that Titanium is very expensive, and not getting any cheaper, and not the easiest material to work with.. Plus, the amount of work that goes into making an item like a frame… Even if I had the excess cash kicking around, I don’t know if I would get this.. And if I did, i think my first ride would be to the local police station to turn in my license.. Just to save them the trouble of taking it from me.. LOL

    • Justin says:

      I can’t tell whether or not you boys read the second paragraph of my post.

      @Gabe, I did not know that. That raises the question in my mind as to how much it would cost to have a similar bike built and shipped, maybe with not quite so much titanium…

      @jimbo, I’m sure he could ‘make’ it in China for a fraction of that, but this would not work as well (sound as good?) as yours, by far. You pay extra for quality. Mr. Otton paid a lot extra for the quality he wanted, pushing well past the point that most of us would have considered that of diminishing returns.

      @Brian, you or I could make a bike ‘almost’ as light at considerable savings by swapping AL for Ti on the small parts. A few hundred grams here and there, you get the picture. However, ride those two bikes back-to-back and the one built by NCR is going to make the other one look, feel, and sound like garbage because these are the boys that really know how to build bikes.

      Also, I’ve never seen a cop set up a speed trap on a corner. Keep your license, bro.

  21. agent55 says:

    i would go so far as to say i think NCR is the finest limited-production manufacturer in all of motorcycling. there’s absolutely no one else like them. just look at their back catalogue, so many stunners!

  22. Jack says:

    Huh…that or the Desmosedici for half the cost?

    • falcodoug says:

      or neither.

    • Gabe says:

      Not a second of hesitation: this bike. It’s much more fun, exclusive and rideable than the D16RR. And don’t forget you get the basic Leggera for about $80k. It’s the same motor and just 40 pounds or so heavier.

  23. jerrylee says:

    Congratulations on experiencing the dream as a test ride without selling your house.

    Only the few very have the resources to experience an engineering marvel and in minimal weight and maximum power relative to air-cooled technology and streetability where money is no barrier.

  24. brinskee says:

    I saw this bike on display at the Laguna Seca MotoGP. Spoke with the NCR owner, they were all really nice guys. Craftsmanship was top notch – just spectacular. It might not grab you on video, but in person it will make you drool.

  25. alex says:

    …great example of why the world hates us. Bravo.

    • nathan says:

      Apparently you aren’t able to read very well. The bike is made in Italy, not America. Your self loathing America hatred is entirely uncalled for, especially in a discussion about motorcycles.

  26. Paso100 says:

    Beautiful engineering, not so beautiful bike. Talk about minimalism. At $140,000, I’d want a bike that looks more costly than anything else, too. Yes, that is the taste of sour grapes in my mouth!

  27. Trpldog says:

    Honey, by the way, I sold your car to buy a sidestand. Was that ok??…
    Excellent bike!

  28. Tom Barber says:

    I’m speechless. Titanium swingarm, titanium frame, titanium KICKSTAND. Unbelievable. It all makes me feel very special just reading about it, especially since I am apparently the first person to have read it. But I would never have touched this bike. If I so much as forgot to put it in gear and back on the side stand and it walked away and fell over, would I have to pay? Man, that hurts just thinking about it. But what a ride it must have been.

    • Gabe says:

      I know! My first reaction was to refuse–that’s more money than Dirk will pay me for the next 1200 years. But I got the feeling that if I had damaged the bike, Terry would have been understanding and probably wouldn’t have sold me at a Turkish slave market. I basically rode it like it was a large, motorized wine glass.

  29. vince says:

    Thanks Gabe and Terry! very cool.